Best Backpacking in North Carolina

Hiker with a backpack and trekking pole looking at a beautiful mountain view in North Carolina
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Exploring the rugged wilderness and breathtaking landscapes of North Carolina is a journey that every avid backpacker should undertake. This southeastern gem offers an array of unparalleled opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts seeking to connect with nature on a deeper level. From the majestic peaks of the Appalachian Mountains to the pristine coastal trails, North Carolina’s diverse terrains promise unforgettable backpacking adventures that cater to all skill levels. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a novice explorer, the trails of this state are ready to unveil their treasures and create lasting memories. So, lace up your boots, pack your essentials, and get ready to embark on an expedition like no other in North Carolina!



Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail, a renowned footpath in North Carolina, offers an exhilarating journey through diverse landscapes. With rugged terrains, breathtaking vistas, and a rich natural tapestry, this iconic trail beckons backpackers to immerse themselves in its challenging yet rewarding course. From the sweeping Roan Highlands to the verdant valleys, the Appalachian Trail promises an unforgettable adventure for outdoor enthusiasts.

Reasons To Go Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail:

  • Scenic Diversity: Traverse through a stunning range of landscapes, from lush forests and rolling hills to picturesque meadows and rugged mountain passes.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Witness a variety of wildlife, including deer, bears, and various bird species, immersing you in the natural beauty of the trail.
  • Historical Significance: Explore the trail’s rich history, passing by shelters, landmarks, and sites that have played a crucial role in the development of long-distance hiking.
  • Personal Challenge: Embark on a physically and mentally rewarding journey as you tackle challenging terrains, steep ascents, and descents, pushing your limits.
  • Community and Camaraderie: Connect with fellow backpackers along the way, sharing stories and experiences, creating lasting friendships that are born on the trail.

Recommended Gear: Trekking Poles, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Camping Stove, Water Filter, Sturdy Footwear, Backpack


Shining Rock Wilderness

In the heart of North Carolina’s wilderness, Shining Rock Wilderness beckons with its enchanting landscapes. A realm of ancient quartz outcroppings and serene alpine meadows, this destination holds an irresistible allure for adventurers. Amidst its rugged terrain, hikers discover a sanctuary of natural beauty, where the call of the wild and the grandeur of the mountains harmoniously intertwine.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in the Shining Rock Wilderness:

  • Unique Geological Wonders: Explore the captivating quartz outcroppings, offering a distinctive and picturesque backdrop for your adventure.
  • Tranquil Alpine Meadows: Immerse yourself in the serenity of alpine meadows, a rare and enchanting sight in the eastern United States.
  • Challenging Terrain: Conquer the rugged terrain, from rocky trails to elevation changes, providing a rewarding test of your hiking skills.
  • Spectacular Views: Revel in breathtaking vistas from high points like Shining Rock and Cold Mountain, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Solitude and Serenity: Experience a sense of isolation and tranquility as you explore less crowded trails, connecting with nature on a deeper level

Recommended Gear: Tent, Hiking Boots, Trekking Poles, Sleeping Bag, Water Filter, Camping Stove, Bear Canister


Linville Gorge Wilderness

In North Carolina’s expanse, the Linville Gorge Wilderness stands as a testament to the raw forces of nature. Carved by the Linville River, this rugged gorge offers a majestic landscape of towering cliffs, untamed wilderness, and the untiring rush of waterfalls. Adventure awaits those who venture into this wild realm, where the echoes of time resonate through the ancient rock formations.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in the Linville Gorge Wilderness:

  • Dramatic Cliffscapes: Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of towering cliffs and rock formations that define the gorge’s unique landscape.
  • Waterfall Wonderland: Experience the thrill of encountering numerous waterfalls, including Linville Falls, each adding to the enchantment of the wilderness.
  • Challenging Trails: Embark on strenuous hikes that challenge your skills and reward your efforts with breathtaking views and a true sense of accomplishment.
  • Untamed Wilderness: Escape the modern world and find solace in the untouched beauty of a wild environment that echoes with the whispers of the past.
  • Stargazing Splendor: Witness the night sky in all its glory, as the remote location of the gorge offers some of the best opportunities for stargazing and celestial contemplation.

Recommended Gear: Sturdy Footwear, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Filter, Trekking Poles, Map/Compass, Camping Stove


Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

​​Amidst North Carolina’s landscapes, Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest stands as a living testament to time’s grandeur. Here, ancient trees reach skyward, their towering forms echoing the whispers of centuries past. Walking through this hushed woodland cathedral, one is immersed in a world where nature’s legacy weaves a tapestry of reverence and awe.

Reasons To Go Backpacking at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest:

  • Ancient Forest Giants: Experience the awe of walking among towering trees, some of the oldest and largest in the eastern United States.
  • Peaceful Solitude: Find tranquility as you explore trails that wind through a pristine forest, offering a serene escape from the bustling world.
  • Living History: Immerse yourself in a unique ecosystem that has stood the test of time, providing a glimpse into the natural heritage of the region.
  • Photographer’s Paradise: Capture the enchanting beauty of sunlight filtering through the dense canopy and the majestic forms of the ancient trees.
  • Natural Inspiration: Let the forest’s quiet grandeur and contemplative atmosphere inspire your connection with nature and introspective moments.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Bottle, Trail Map, Insect Repellent


Panther Town Valley

Panther Town Valley, situated within North Carolina’s untamed terrain, invites exploration. Amidst lush forests and rugged landscapes, this hidden gem beckons adventurers to discover its mysteries. A tapestry of diverse ecosystems, cascading waterfalls, and rocky cliffs, the valley invites those who seek both solace and exhilaration in its enchanting embrace.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in Panther Town Valley:

  • Natural Diversity: Explore a dynamic range of ecosystems, from dense forests to cascading waterfalls, offering a variety of landscapes to discover.
  • Remote Wilderness: Venture into a less crowded area, enjoying a sense of isolation and a deeper connection with the untamed surroundings.
  • Rocky Escapes: Engage in rock climbing and bouldering challenges, as the valley’s rocky cliffs provide opportunities for adventure.
  • Scenic Waterways: Follow trails that lead to picturesque waterfalls and creeks, perfect for relaxation and enjoying the soothing sounds of nature.
  • Abundant Wildlife: Observe a rich array of wildlife, from deer and foxes to diverse bird species, enhancing your experience with wildlife encounters.

Recommended Gear: Sturdy Hiking Boots, Backpack, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Filtration System, Climbing Gear, First Aid Kit


Uwharrie National Forest

Uwharrie National Forest, a haven of natural wonders in North Carolina, offers a unique blend of landscapes. From rolling hills and dense woodlands to tranquil lakes and meandering streams, this diverse terrain invites explorers to immerse themselves in its beauty. Amidst the quiet serenity, a world of outdoor adventure unfolds, promising unforgettable experiences for those who venture within.

Reasons To Go Backpacking at Uwharrie National Forest:

  • Varied Landscapes: Traverse through a mix of rolling hills, dense forests, serene lakes, and gentle streams, offering a range of natural settings to explore.
  • Less Crowded: Enjoy a quieter and less crowded outdoor experience compared to some more popular backpacking destinations.
  • Historical Trails: Follow trails with historical significance, often used by early settlers and gold miners, adding a sense of adventure and exploration.
  • Abundant Wildlife: Encounter diverse wildlife, including deer, wild turkeys, and a variety of bird species, enhancing your connection with nature.
  • Accessible Adventure: Accessible location and well-marked trails make Uwharrie National Forest a great destination for both novice and experienced backpackers.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Tent/Hammock, Sleeping Bag, Water Filter, Trail Map/Compass, Portable Stove


Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Within the undulating embrace of the Appalachian landscape lies the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a realm of unspoiled beauty and serene wilderness. Enveloped in mist and verdant foliage, this park harbors a symphony of nature’s wonders — from cascading waterfalls to diverse ecosystems. A sanctuary of natural poetry, it beckons seekers of solace and discovery alike.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

  • Breathtaking Scenery: Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of mist-shrouded mountains, lush forests, and panoramic vistas that paint a stunning backdrop.
  • Diverse Ecosystems: Explore a rich tapestry of ecosystems, from old-growth forests to wildflower-covered meadows, providing endless opportunities for discovery.
  • Abundant Wildlife: Encounter a diverse array of wildlife, including black bears, deer, elk, and over 200 bird species, adding excitement to your journey.
  • Historical Significance: Walk in the footsteps of pioneers and settlers, as remnants of historic cabins and settlements offer insights into the region’s past.
  • Peaceful Solitude: Wander the park’s extensive trail network and find solace in the serenity of remote areas, where the embrace of nature’s tranquility is yours to enjoy.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Filtration System, Bear-Resistant Food Canister, Rain Jacket


Mount Mitchell State Park

In the realm of towering peaks, Mount Mitchell State Park stands as an emblem of nature’s majesty. At the pinnacle of eastern America, the park offers breathtaking vistas that stretch across rugged landscapes. Here, the air is crisp, and the sense of elevation brings a connection with the heavens above. It’s a sanctuary where earthly beauty meets the boundless sky.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in Mount Mitchell State Park:

  • Highest East of the Mississippi: Experience the thrill of reaching the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, offering unparalleled views and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Spectacular Panoramas: Marvel at breathtaking vistas from the summit, where the surrounding landscape unfolds in a sweeping panorama of mountains and valleys.
  • Challenging Hiking Trails: Embark on trails that lead through diverse ecosystems, presenting varying levels of challenge and opportunities to explore the mountain’s grandeur.
  • Unique Alpine Ecosystem: Encounter rare alpine plants and wildlife that thrive in the high elevations, providing a glimpse into a unique and delicate ecosystem.
  • Stargazing Delight: With its high elevation and limited light pollution, the park offers superb stargazing opportunities, allowing you to connect with the cosmos like never before.

Recommended Gear: Sturdy Footwear, Backpack, Warm Clothing Layers, Trekking Poles, Headlamp, Trail Map/Compass, Snacks


Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest, a realm of boundless natural splendor, beckons with its diverse landscapes and untamed beauty. From the verdant valleys to the soaring peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this forest embraces an array of ecosystems. Within its embrace, outdoor enthusiasts find solace and adventure, as they explore trails, waterfalls, and scenic vistas that paint an enchanting portrait of nature’s magnificence.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in Pisgah National Forest:

  • Diverse Landscapes: Explore a wide range of environments, including lush forests, rugged mountains, cascading waterfalls, and meandering rivers.
  • Abundant Trails: Discover an extensive network of trails catering to all skill levels, providing opportunities for both leisurely walks and challenging hikes.
  • Waterfall Wonders: Witness the mesmerizing beauty of numerous waterfalls, such as Looking Glass Falls and Linville Falls, adding to the allure of your journey.
  • Outdoor Adventure: Engage in a variety of activities, from hiking and ccamping to fishing and mountain biking, ensuring an adventure-packed experience.
  • Scenic Overlooks: Revel in breathtaking vistas from high points like Max Patch or Black Balsam Knob, where sweeping views reward your efforts and awe your senses.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Tent/Hammock, Sleeping Bag, Water Filtration System, Multi-Tool, Portable Stove


South Mountains State Park

South Mountains State Park, a sanctuary of natural wonders, invites adventurers to delve into its rugged embrace. Amidst rolling hills and dense woodlands, the park reveals hidden waterfalls, tranquil streams, and diverse ecosystems waiting to be explored. From challenging hikes to peaceful moments by the water’s edge, it offers an escape into a realm of untamed beauty.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in South Mountains State Park:

  • Scenic Trails: Explore a network of trails that wind through diverse landscapes, from lush forests and wildflower meadows to cascading waterfalls.
  • Waterfall Exploration: Discover picturesque waterfalls like High Shoals Falls, adding a touch of enchantment to your hiking experience.
  • Peaceful Wilderness: Find solace in the serene wilderness, where the sounds of nature and the tranquility of the surroundings offer a refreshing escape.
  • Varied Terrain: Encounter a mix of terrain, including steep ascents and descents, challenging your hiking skills and providing a rewarding workout.
  • Stargazing Opportunities: Experience stunning night skies free from light pollution, making South Mountains State Park an ideal location for stargazing and celestial appreciation.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Tent/Hammock, Sleeping Bag, Water Bottle, Trail Map/Compass, Headlamp


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